…do it yourself. That’s what the Norwegians think about birthday parties. While the American tradition is that your nearest and dearest do something nice for you on your birthday. Here you have to do it all yourself.
In the US, you can just pop over to your nearest Giganta-mart and pick up a butter cream surprise, with or without the witty sayings. That would be shocking to most Norwegians for two reasons. 1- to only be offered a store-bought cake and 2- to only be offered one type of cake.
We were invited for coffee for a family member’s 60th birthday a few years back. The tables set for 30 guests with the nicest porcelain, freshly pressed damask tablecloths and napkins folded into swans. There were no less than 16 different cakes making the rounds from table to table. Cream cakes, cheese cake, meringue with whipped cream, nut bottomed cakes with vanilla cream topping. Not a chocolate cake in sight because well, that would be too rich. Hot coffee is the antidote to cake so we emptied thermos after thermos of coffee into our thin porcelain cups as the cakes made their rounds. A delicious indulgence.
When I first came to Norway, I thought this was annoying all these cakes circling around with everyone cutting a teeny slice of each one just to get a taste. I must have been hungry in this particular instance so I just cut a normal slice and I think someone did actually slide off their chair in horror. Was I only going to have the one piece?
So I have learned. Never take a slice wider than your little finger. Never cut into the center of the cake – leave a little circle in the middle no one will eat. Never take the flowers or any decorations. Try your very best to taste ALL the cakes because somebody’s mother made it, from scratch, just for this very occasion.
If you want to avoid all the hullabaloo, you can just let everyone know that you are “away on travels” on your birthday. After a few years everyone will figure out that you are an antisocial twit and stop pressuring you to bake cakes and iron your linens.
We have a few friends that have passed their milestone birthdays and they have been clever about outsourcing the work with the party. Of course, when you first start a project like that it tends to expand. If you had it at home you would invite 20 people or so but when you are off the hook for the work – suddenly it would be fun to see your second cousin and that girl from high school.
So we went to one of these shin-digs last night and it was lovely. 50 guests, 75 bottles of wine and about 8 cakes. Gratulerer med dagen or Happy Birthday!